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Editorial

Don’t be Afraid of the Conversation

By Adam Manchester | December 20, 2023

Editor’s Note: This article was written and submitted by senior-living executive Adam Manchester. If you are a senior-living executive at a community with an idea for an article that you’d like to write and publish in Senior Living News you’re welcome to submit your written article or idea to our editor, Jim Nelson, at jnelson@seniorlivingnews.com. We welcome all ideas including, but not limited to, staffing recruitment and retention solutions, addressing the middle market, and successful, innovative programs or technology.

Deciding to move to a retirement community can be one of the biggest and most daunting decisions a family makes. It’s on par with picking a college or buying a first home. Often, though, families wait too long to make this decision.

Waiting is understandable, given the fear of change that sometimes comes with aging. Many families avoid the topic until it becomes necessary, or even an emergency. At that point, options are limited, and the decision can feel forced. As a senior living administrator, it’s hard to watch families in that position. This is why I encourage families to have “the conversation” as early as possible to open up more options and give retirees the chance to fully enjoy life.

The trickiest part is often knowing when and how to start this conversation. The holidays provide the perfect opportunity as relatives gather to reminisce and share their aspirations for the year ahead. Regardless of the time of year, the discussion should start with an understanding of a loved one’s needs and wants. Asking pointed yet compassionate questions often prompts older adults to consider what they want from their retirement years and gives their families guidance on how to make that happen.

Families don’t have to commit to a plan the first time the topic comes up, but they should come away with clearly-expressed and well-defined priorities. For instance, retirees may be looking for more social connections as friends move to warmer climates or to retirement communities. Older homeowners may be ready to give up home repairs or snow removal in favor of lower maintenance living. Perhaps there are medical concerns that everyone reluctantly admits will eventually need a higher level of one-on-one attention. Whatever way the conversation comes up, I always encourage families to embrace it and make it comfortable, because there might be resistance — from either parents or adult children — later on.

The next steps are knowing what options exist and researching costs. This can seem overwhelming at first because there are more choices than ever, many of which defy expectations of what senior living can be. Continuing-care retirement communities (CCRCs), for example, often surprise retirees and their families with all they offer — active, engaged independent living alongside the advanced care of assisted living, memory care, rehabilitation, and skilled nursing for a full spectrum of services. CCRCs frequently offer these services through lifecare plans in which a portion of residents’ monthly fees go toward future medical expenses, adding some predictability and stability to the costs associated with aging.

At New Pond Village, the Walpole, Massachusetts, CCRC where I work, our community is a highly-social environment with elevated dining options, fitness programs, and beautiful outdoor spaces. Residents come here for a variety of reasons, but it doesn’t take long for them to find something that ignites their interests. Knowing this can help “the conversation” seem less daunting; as with picking the right college, finding a good match for long-term care and having a plan can enhance quality of life and provide peace of mind for the future.

Finally, I always encourage prospective residents to immerse themselves in the communities they’re considering. Invite them in, not just to see the campus and amenities, but to get a sense of who their neighbors and caregivers will be. At New Pond Village, our residents and their families put their faith and trust in us that we’re going to deliver on their expectations for the rest of their lives. I want to ensure that we fulfill that trust, and we work really hard every day to make that happen.

The right senior living community can truly enhance quality of life for retirees and their families — yet many don’t get to fully enjoy the benefits because they put off the discussion. Our task is to encourage and support them through the process and make sure they know they don’t have to be afraid of the conversation.

This article has been lightly edited.

Credit

Adam Manchester
Guest Columnist

Adam Manchester is the campus executive director for New Pond Village in Walpole, Massachusetts.

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